Tag: Unchoke The Throat

Unchoked: Dual Paths included in MassDOT’s plans for massive Allston I90 Project!

Unchoked: Dual Paths included in MassDOT’s plans for massive Allston I90 Project!

“Unchoke the Throat!” – the rallying cry to improve the Charles River park and river edge in the I-90 Allston Interchange project – grew out of WalkBoston’s call for separate paths for people walking and biking along the river within a landscaped park. Joined by the Charles River Conservancy and community residents, the idea came to life when Sasaki produced drawings showing a vision of how it could be done. WalkBoston produced a video showing how the massive highway project could be an opportunity to create a better place for people running, biking, and walking along the Charles River.

People from around the region wrote letters to MassDOT expressing their support for dual paths and a better park in the Throat. Of the 500 letters MassDOT received during the FEIR public comment period, over 150 referenced our “#UnchokeTheThroat” video proposal.

MassDOT listened! The notion of dual paths, nonexistent in most of the planning prior to #UnchokeTheThroat, is now in nearly every paragraph of Transportation Secretary Pollack’s explanation of her January 10th decision to pursue a new concept for the Throat (see today’s Boston Globe Mass. Pike in Allston, Soldiers Field Road are set for a major overhaul”).

The chosen plan makes dual paths and a wider park possible with an at-grade Turnpike and placement of Soldiers Field Road on a new, smaller viaduct above the Turnpike. A more generous, straightened park is also included as part of the plan that extends commuter rail to Cambridge via the Grand Junction line across the Charles River. Each of these improvements will help to reduce noise and visual intrusions into the riverside park.

What’s next?

WalkBoston’s advocacy is not done! We have tracked this project since its beginning in 2014, and we will continue our efforts to make it better.

Our focus, along with other advocates and community partners, is to convince MassDOT of the need to prepare for the traffic disruption during construction by enhancing transit access to and from the west and protecting Allston and Brookline neighborhoods from cut through traffic. Maximizing express bus and commuter rail services in the corridor served by the Turnpike and the Framingham/Worcester Commuter Rail Line will be critical. New service should include West Station to enhance public transportation options that provide additional capacity when vehicle lanes on the Turnpike are removed from service during the years of construction. Local bus connections are needed to provide a web of services that get commuters to final destinations; the stations further out, too, will need to be considered, as they will likely see an influx of new riders hoping to avoid driving delays in the construction area. Pedestrian connections to all new or supplemented services are essential.

Work on the project – some call it “the biggest highway project since the Big Dig” – goes on. It is, of course, much more than a highway project. It is a major development with public transportation components that lead outward from West Station, with repercussions that stretch all the way to Worcester – encompassing the Western Corridor and the major employment centers of Harvard Square, the Longwood Medical Area, Kendall Square, Back Bay and Downtown. Boston will gain a whole new neighborhood that will add over 10 million square feet of new employment and residential buildings that will make the area another of the region’s most important destinations over the next few decades.

The Allston I-90 Project is a once in a generation project that Massachusetts needs to get right. It is our move to call attention to everyday issues that can be improved to make it safer and easier to get around now and in the future.

Letter to Review Team on Restoration of the River Edge

Letter to Review Team on Restoration of the River Edge

From: WalkBoston, Charles River Conservancy, Charles River Watershed Association

To: MassDOT – officials, staff, consultants Review Team on the I-90 Allston Interchange Improvement Project

Date: August 15, 2018

Re: Charles River – Restoration of the River Edge

On behalf of three organizations committed to the protection of the Charles River and its parklands, public access and pathways, and environmental health we jointly request that MassDOT fulfill its responsibilities to this invaluable resource by analyzing and developing options for the ecological restoration of the severely degraded and eroded riverbank in the I-90 Interchange Project area – from the BU Bridge to the River Street Bridge. This Project directly impacts the Charles River Basin , its parkland, ecology, water quality, and overall resiliency; dealing with those impacts is integral to the Project.

A study by MassDOT in advance of the FEIR should include re-establishment of a more natural edge, bank restoration, stormwater management, and increased floodplain connectivity and storage for resiliency. It should explore at least one alternative that creates better habitat and provides flood storage through the use of fill material in the river to accomplish these objectives. We ask that between now and when the FEIR is produced, a detailed analysis of alternatives, carried out in a collaborative manner, be developed so that results can be incorporated in the FEIR.

The DEIR did not adequately consider the need to restore the river bank, improve the park, and improve water quality. The DEIR has chiefly dealt with these impacts by trying to avoid them on the theory that permitting for the Project would be more difficult if river edge improvements are included. We are convinced that the contrary is true: a serious examination of these improvements would enlist substantial support from organizations, municipalities, and agencies committed to restoring environmental quality in this area – support that will be important to obtaining required approvals.

Restoration of this area requires attention to a number of issues and several important state and federal requirements, including:

1. Protect the river bank from further degradation and restore aquatic and riparian habitat. Much of the existing bank is degraded and eroding, eliminating fish habitat. The Charles is an important fish run for alewives, blueback herring and American shad, migratory fish that return to the river each year to spawn.

2. Provide parkland and improve safe walking and biking conditions as part of multi-modal improvement called for in MassDOT’s Project “purpose and need” statement and under Article 97.

3. Reduce stormwater runoff discharging to the river via overland flows and outfalls, including the 13 outfalls along Soldiers Field Road in the Throat Area. Both MassDOT and DCR have regulatory obligations to comply with phosphorus limits established in the state’s Lower Charles River Basin Nutrient Total Maximum Daily Load (2007).

4. Provide flood resilience, control and storage capacity for precipitation-based inland flooding within the context of current and expected climate change impacts.

5. Develop landscape strategies and designs that provide Section 4(f) mitigation. Removing invasive species, dead trees and replanting with native vegetation, in addition to incorporating green infrastructure, should be integral to the study.

6. Plan for the riverfront parkland, which is a water-dependent use under Chapter 91.

7. Meet historic requirements for the Charles River Reservation in the Charles River Basin Historic District included in Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act and Massachusetts Historical Commission review.

8. Comply with the Article 97 no net loss policy that requires replacement of parkland that is to be taken by the Project.

One example of how an alternatives analysis could address these issues is the environmental assessment and recommendations prepared for the North Shore Riverfront Ecosystem Restoration Project in Pittsburgh, PA. It provides extensive river edge improvements, including a natural bank, new pathways, landscaped parklands, connected floodplain, and wetlands. It was developed jointly by local environmental organizations and local, state and federal agencies, including the US Army Corps of Engineers. (https://www.lrp.usace.army.mil/Portals/72/docs/ProjectReviewPlans/N%20Shore%20Riverfront%20DP R%20MSC%20Approved%20for%20Release.pdf?ver=20160524161651743)

We are committed to working cooperatively with you in this process in order to evaluate the options and to achieve results in an expedited and cost-effective manner to restore and enhance this area of the Charles River and the Basin parklands.

We look forward to your response.

Wendy Landman, Executive Director, WalkBoston
Laura Jasinski, Executive Director, Charles River Conservancy
Margaret VanDusen, Deputy Director and General Counsel, Charles River Watershed Association

Please join WalkBoston, the Charles River Conservancy and the Charles River Watershed Association at a “Throat” Walk, September 12, 5:30 PM. We will meet at “BU Beach” behind the Marsh Chapel.

Images from Environmental Assessment of North Shore Riverfront, Pittsburgh


Event: Charles River “Throat” Site Walk

Event: Charles River “Throat” Site Walk

RSVP now and save the date – September 12, 2018 5:30pm – join WalkBoston, the Charles River Conservancy, Charles River Watershed Association, and the Esplanade Association for a site walk of the Charles River path’s “Throat” area. We’ll meet at ‘BU Beach’ (grassy area on Boston University Campus near Marsh Chapel) in front of the pedestrian overpass to the Charles River path, before crossing over to the river side and gathering in an accessible location for very brief presentations. From there, we’ll walk to the first overlook to experience the narrow path and un-parklike existing conditions along the path and view the eroded river bank, before returning to the gathering area for questions and next steps.

This will give you a better understanding of why this narrow stretch has an outsized role in MassDOT’s Allston I-90 Interchange Project — and how it could help #UnchokeTheThroat in the years to come.

Getting to the meet up location by transit:

Green Line ‘B’ Branch – BU Central stop – the roundtrip walk from this location is 1 mile.
#57/57A Bus – Commonwealth Ave @ Granby stop

PLEASE NOTE: The pedestrian bridge from BU Beach to the Charles River Path includes stairs; accessible access to the path is at the Mass Ave Bridge (about 3/4 mile away). The #1 Bus has the closest transit stop to this entrance (~1 block away, Mass Ave @ Beacon stop).

More details to be added: RSVP below on Eventbrite or on Facebook

Allston/Brighton Mobility Study Open House later that evening!

After the walk, make sure to attend the BPDA’s Allston Brighton Mobility Study Kick-off Open House (6-8PM, Jackson Mann Gymnasium, 40 Armington St, Allston, MA 02134). The purpose of the study is to identify measures to improve mobility for all modes – transit, bikes, pedestrians, and cars. MBTA and MassDOT staff will also be on hand to explain the Better Bus Study and the Allston Transit Improvement Study for Allston/Brighton and discuss other ongoing initiatives.

For more background on the “Unchoke The Throat” campaign and the Allston I-90 effort at large, see our project page!

Comment Letter with proposed Task Force Agenda

Comment Letter with proposed Task Force Agenda

June 25, 2018
Secretary Stephanie Pollack
Massachusetts Department of Transportation
10 Park Plaza
Boston, MA 02116

Dear Secretary Pollack:

Thank you for resuming meetings of the I90 Allston Task Force. The dialogue and collaboration that we look forward to having with MassDOT and the MBTA will be an important step in this project towards achieving consensus on a multi-modal project that meets the current and future needs of Allston and the region to increase economic development, quality of life, and environmental sustainability.

We hope that the issues below will be used to frame the June 27th Task Force meeting. We believe that each of the issues must be resolved and incorporated into the Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR). We would also like to have a regular schedule of Task Force meetings at least until the end of 2018 because of the proposed deadline for production of the FEIR by March, 2019.

Thank you.

Sincerely, The following members of the I-90 Allston Interchange Task Force:

Anthony D’Isidoro
Allston resident
Allston Civic Association

Jason Desrosiers
Manager of Community Building and Engagement
Allston Brighton Community Development Corporation

Paola Ferrer
Allston resident

Harry Mattison
Allston resident
Board of Directors
Charles River Conservancy

Galen Mook
Allston resident
New Executive Director

Alana Olsen
Allston resident

Jessica Robertson
Allston resident

Emma Walters
Allston resident
Executive Director
Allston Village Main Streets

Tom Francis
Interim Executive Director

Laura Jasinsky
Executive Director
Charles River Conservancy

Wendy Landman
Executive Director

Stacy Thompson
Executive Director
Liveable Streets Alliance

Cc: Mike O’Dowd, Project Manager
Sen. William Brownsberger, Second Suffolk and Middlesex District
Sen. Sal DiDomenico, Middlesex and Suffolk District
Sen. Joe Boncore, First Suffolk and Middlesex District
Sen. James Eldridge, Middlesex and Worcester District
Sen. Karen Spilka, Second Middlesex and Norfolk District
Sen. Michael Moore, Second Worcester District
Sen. Cynthia Creem, First Middlesex and Norfolk District
Rep. Carmile Gentile, 13th Middlesex District
Rep. Mary Keefe, 15th Worcester District
Rep. Frank Smizik, 15th Norfolk District
Rep. Jeffrey Roy, 10th Norfolk District
Rep. Brian Murray, 10th Worcester District
Rep. Jim O’Day, 14th Worcester District
Rep. Jennifer Benson, 37th Middlesex District
Rep. Jonathan Hecht, 29th Middlesex District
Rep. Ruth Balser, 12th Middlesex District
Rep. Kay Khan, 11th Middlesex District
Rep. Chris Walsh, 6th Middlesex District
Rep. David Linsky, 5th Middlesex District
Rep. Alice Peisch, 14th Norfolk District
Rep. Jay Livingstone, 8th Suffolk District
Rep. Michael Connolly, 26th Middlesex District
Rep. Michael Moran, 18th Suffolk District
Rep. Kevin Honan, 17th Suffolk District
Boston Mayor Martin Walsh
Mark Ciommo, Boston City Council
Michelle Wu, Boston City Council
Andreae Downs, Newton Councilor-at-large, Ward 5
Susan Albridght, Councilor-at-large, Ward 2
Alan Ciccone, Jr., Councilor-at-large Ward 1
Maria Scibelli Greenberg, Ward 1 Councilor
Neil Wishinski, Brookline Select Board
Benjamin Franco, Select Board
Nancy Heller, Select Board
Bernard Greene, Select Board
Heather Hamilton, Select Board
Cambridge Mayor McGovern
Vice Mayor Devereux
City Manager Louis DePasquale
Councilor Carlone
Councilor Zondervan
Joseph Aiello, Chair

MBTA Fiscal and Management Control Board

Proposed agenda for I-90 Task Force meeting – June 27, 2018

Our preferred decisions are described below:

1.    West Station: Interim Station & Early Build

West Station should be built much sooner than the currently planned 2040, and an Interim West Station should be built during the earliest stages of the project. MassDOT should eliminate the proposed temporary railyard expansion that is part of their Phase 2 plan so that after the I-90 roads are constructed, new structures do not need to be removed to make room for West Station. The design and construction of West Station should include a commitment to full exploration of the Flip alternative, a center platform and early action on North/South walking, cycling and bus connections to the Station.

2.    Regional Mobility During Construction

There should be a commitment to continuous peak period two-track rail service on the Worcester Line during construction.  This is vital to providing regional mobility from the Worcester and Metro West regions.

3.    At-Grade Highway Replacement

MassDOT should move forward with the lower cost at-grade highway replacement alternative, saving tax and toll payers a minimum $100 million in construction costs and more costly lifetime maintenance costs that are likely to exceed the present $800,000/year. This alternative will also allow ped/bike connections to be made between Commonwealth Ave. and the riverfront.

4.    Improved Pedestrian & Cycling Public Realm

Allston Landing should be built in a community-friendly manner that reflects its proximity to neighborhoods and the Charles River and encourages sustainable mobility. Key elements of this are (1) commitments to “unchoke the throat” (improving walking and cycling with separated pathways along the Charles River and connections to the river across the corridor); (2) restoration of the river’s edge; and (3) building Wadsworth Path abutting the community.

5.   Early Action on 2-Track Grand Junction Line

The Grand Junction line will provide Worcester and Metro West commuters with direct access to jobs-rich Cambridge and Kendall Square and possibly North Station.  Regional equity, and sustainable urban mobility, requires a commitment to re-opening the Grand Junction to passenger rail as an early action item.